Here is an essay I wrote recently on who I think will contend for the Cy Young award this year. I may be biased but I couldn’t help myself. Sorry. Enjoy.
I think an underdog type player that could emerge as a Cy Young candidate is Johnny Cueto. He now has 4 seasons in the Majors. His win-loss record has increased each year until 2011 when it decreased slightly. His E.R.A has gone down each year from 4.81 in 2008 (90 earned runs) – 2.31 in 2011 (40 earned runs). All of his other stats that are most important to pitchers have improved greatly over his career. His walks have gone from 68 in 2008 to 47 in 2011. His opponent’s avg. has dropped from .262-.220. He has gone from more of a strikeout pitcher when he began his career to pitching to contact thus getting more ground balls which is helpful in Great American Ball Park. By doing that he has become more efficient with his pitch count allowing him to pitch deeper into games. This not only helps him but also the bullpen. It allows the bullpen to get a day off so they are more rested for when another starter may not do as well. He also has been working on making a major change in his delivery over the years which became noticeable in 2011. He has imitated the delivery of Luis Tiant from the 1970’s. The delivery allows him to hide the ball a little longer as his body rotates toward 2B therefore giving the batter less time to see the ball. It has also helped him stay away from the big inning that he had so often the first 2-3 years of his career. When he used to pitch he had a tendency to do one of two things. He would either step off the bag towards first which would allow the ball to fly out of his hand and start walking hitters. There were also many times he would lose control physically to one or two batters, then he would lose control mentally and before you knew what happened he had given up 3-5 runs in an inning. He has since progressed to where he’s learned to put one bad play past him, regroup, and still have a great game. The expectations have been raised very high for him. Every time I watch him pitch I expect him to go 7-8 innings with only 1-2 runs. He has learned the difference between “throwing hard” and “pitching”. When he first made the team out of Spring Training he was more of a hard-thrower, strikeout pitcher. In his debut Arizona he pitched 7 innings, 1 hit, 1 run, and 10 strikeouts. While still a hard thrower he doesn’t pitch quite as hard as he had. Although he normally pitches in the low 90’s he has the ability to rear back and put a little more speed on a pitch (high 90’s) when he needs a big strikeout in a crucial situation late in the game. He has gotten better each year and with another year of experience I expect him to be a legitimate contender for the Cy Young award.